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Living With Scoliosis

Everyone’s spine curves a little, especially at the lower and upper portions. That’s natural. But sometimes, the spine curves in unnatural ways, causing symptoms like back pain and decreased range of motion. 

This spinal deformity is a condition called scoliosis, and it affects as many as 25% of American adults. It’s even more common as you age. In fact, nearly 70% of people over age 60 have scoliosis, according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative.  

Dr. Kenneth Light offers scoliosis treatment for patients in San Leandro, California, using advanced techniques customized for each patient’s condition, health, and lifestyle. If you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis, here’s what you should know about its treatment and what you can do to stay more comfortable.

Scoliosis: Causes and symptoms

Most people think scoliosis only occurs during childhood, when the spine is developing. But scoliosis develops during adult years, too, with surprising frequency. Adult-onset scoliosis is typically divided into two types: idiopathic scoliosis and degenerative scoliosis.

Idiopathic scoliosis typically begins during your teen years and goes unnoticed until you get older. Degenerative scoliosis develops as a result of age-related changes in your spine. 

As you age, your spine undergoes changes just like the rest of your body. You might develop arthritis in the spine joints, along with tiny bone spurs along the edges of the bones. The spongy intervertebral discs start to dry out and compress. Sometimes, these changes occur far more rapidly along one side of your spine, resulting in increased pressure and force that tugs your spine out of alignment. 

When scoliosis is mild, it may not cause any symptoms, or the symptoms may be minor and transient. But in more severe cases or if the degenerative changes continue, you can develop symptoms like:

When scoliosis affects your lower back, you might notice that your hips look uneven or out of balance.

Living with scoliosis

When scoliosis happens during childhood, many patients wear braces to correct the curvature as the spine continues to grow. But in adult-onset scoliosis, the primary goal is to relieve painful symptoms that develop.

Physical therapy and special stretching exercises can be very helpful in relieving mild symptoms of scoliosis for many patients. Therapy typically focuses on core strength and flexibility, improving the natural support your spine gets from the muscles that surround it.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines can also help in reducing painful symptoms. Often, medicines are taken in combination with physical therapy. Nerve blocks and epidural injections provide added relief when oral pain relievers aren’t sufficient.

Surgery for more severe cases

Many women and men find symptom relief with these more conservative approaches. But when symptoms progress or these options don’t provide enough relief, Dr. Light may recommend surgery. 

Spinal fusion is a type of surgery that can be very effective in treating scoliosis. Most painful symptoms happen when the spine moves in an uneven or odd way due to the unnatural curvature. The goal of spinal fusion is to immobilize that part of your spine, preventing the movement-related strain that causes pain.

Dr. Light uses tiny bone grafts from your hip and transplants them into your spine. Over time, your spine bones fuse with the bone graft. Dr. Light may also use pins or screws to hold the grafts in place.

Don’t let back pain ruin your life

Lots of problems can cause chronic back pain. Scoliosis is just one possible cause. No matter what’s causing your symptoms, one thing’s for certain: Chronic back pain can take a dramatic toll on your life.

The good news is, Dr. Light is skilled in advanced techniques for relieving back pain, including both nonsurgical and surgical approaches, to help you live with conditions like scoliosis. If you’re having back pain, call the office or book an appointment online, and learn how Dr. Light can help you find relief.

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